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Friday, November 19, 2010

change of plans

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My husband and I have rarely had the opportunity to get away together. We spent a kid-free weekend in Gatlinburg about five years ago and we've visited Johnsonville, TN. But, that's about it. For that matter, we rarely get to take a vacation together at all. While I'll take the children to the beach with my mother, he'll stay at home because he can't take the time off from work.  However, due to an upcoming conference in San Fransisco, that was going to change next summer.  If he decided to go, I was hoping to fly out with him and, when he wasn't networking and attending conference-things, we were going to have a little time to ourselves.  

Then came the TSA's new screening policies. 

Our local airport does not have the Peeping Tom naked screening machines as of yet.  Given the small stature of our city, and the fact that many people drive two hours to fly out of the next largest airport in the area, they will likely be a long time coming.  Though, if we did have them, I likely would not go through one anyway.  I'm jittery about the typical pass-through metal detectors on a good day.  Now, you want me to travel through an x-ray machine that the laughable FDA has deemed safe, but private studies have found that they emit varying degrees of radiation?  Without a cape that protects my girly bits?  No thank you.  I'm not going to do it.

But, then again, I don't have to worry about that.  Our airport doesn't have the machines.  So, their newest method of screening involves this "enhanced pat-down."  In addition to providing maximum security in small airports, this is obviously an attempt to enact a humiliating negative consequence to opting out of the Peeping Tom machines.  When a passenger sets off the metal detector or opts out of the imaging technology machines, TSA agents have been known to loudly announce the coming fondling by shouting "opt-out, we have an opt-out here," thereby bringing attention to the imminent public humiliation.  Using the fronts of their hands and their fingers, TSA agents are now required to fondle passengers' genitals and breasts if the passenger either chooses to opt-out of the new naked screeners, or if such screeners are not available at all and the passenger sets off the metal detector.  The TSA has determined that dicks need to be grabbed, breasts need to be lifted (and likely squeezed-- what if a wanna-be terrorist has had a bomb inserted during a boob job??) and labia need to be swept with a "sliding hand motion" in order to assure that passengers aren't hiding weapons in their most private places.  Apparently, those places aren't so private anymore.  At least, not if you purchase an airline ticket.  I mean, really... why bother just sweeping?  Go ahead and probe us to make sure we haven't stuck anything inside our hoochies.  What?  Right, that's probably the next step in this crazy plot to make the average American citizen feel safer while treating them no better than a common criminal or an assumed terrorist.

I mean, really.  Why do they think passengers will just idly stand by and let this happen?  Do we not have any privacy any more?  What about our freedom from unreasonable search and seizure?  I understand that, traditionally, courts have allowed airlines and the TSA to be more vigilant in their searches for the supposed common good, but how far is too far?  At what point are we allowed to shout "enough!"

Well, apparently we aren't.  John Tyner, a passenger who recently told a TSA agent "Don't touch my junk or I'll have you arrested," was thrown out of the airport and is now facing a civil lawsuit and hefty fines.  According to CNN:
Tyner could face a civil penalty as high as $11,000, according to Michael Aguilar, the TSA's federal security director in San Diego, who defended the behavior of his officers during the confrontation. "He's violated federal law and federal regulations, which states once you enter and start the process you have to complete it," he said. .......
But anyone who refuses to complete the screening process will be denied access to airport secure areas and could be subject to civil penalties, the administration said, citing a federal appeals court ruling in support of the rule.
The ruling, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, says that "requiring that a potential passenger be allowed to revoke consent to an ongoing airport security search makes little sense in a post-9/11 world. Such a rule would afford terrorists multiple opportunities to attempt to penetrate airport security by 'electing not to fly' on the cusp of detection until a vulnerable portal is found."
Therefore, just buying a ticket, showing up to the airport, and entering the security line, removes all of a passenger's rights as to what they will experience at the security checkpoint.  You can't say no.  You can't turn back.  You can't make requests such as, "Don't touch my junk."  You just have to shut up, stand still, and deal with it.  Something about that is terribly wrong.  In this country, a consenting adult is not legally permitted to have sexual relations with whomever they choose, however they choose, in some states.  Yet, in all states, the federal government can grab you where ever they want, take pictures of whatever they want, put you through the loops and sexually abuse you, yet you cannot say anything about it and, as of now, have no legal leg to stand on. 

Even worse, this doesn't just apply to you, it applies to your teenagers as well.  Children under 12, of course, will receive a modified pat-down.  But, we have not yet been told what that will be.  Do you want this happening to your 14 year old daughter?

I certainly don't.  Beyond the fact that I feel this is incredibly inappropriate to subject ANYONE to, and the strong feelings I have against going through security due to these newly implemented measures, I know what it is like to be 14 and helpless against sexual assault from an authority figure.  That's right, it happened to me.  I will NOT allow the same to happen to my daughter or my son.  I don't want anyone looking at them naked and I don't want them to be felt up and groped.  So, what's the alternative?

For me, it is not to fly.  At this time, I do not anticipate accompanying my husband on his possible trip to California.  Of course, as public outcry grows and time passes, current events may change that decision.  So don't hold me to it, k?

The sticky thing about it is this: I have the luxury of choosing not to take a trip that requires flying.  Many people do not.  They must travel for work, sometimes quite often.  They don't have a choice in the matter.  What will those people do?  It is likely that they will take the abuse quietly.   They will keep their heads down and their mouths shut.  They might make sure they don't have a bit of metal on their person, so they won't have to endure the humiliation of the enhanced pat-down in small airports.  They will go without their belts, their underwire bras, their fancy studded shoes.  They will go to the furthest extent to make sure that they don't set off the metal detectors and, even then, that may not be enough.  Random screenings, anyone?  I can bet that they are on their way.


  1. I'm really nervous about flying. We are going to Ky in 3 weeks and I just have this fear of being singled out.

  2. I had to get a pat down at our airport after a trip through the body scanner because I had a shirt on with some metallic beading. (I know, bad choice in travel wear, but I hadn't realized the body scanners were installed.) The full frontal pat down I received was very professional, and though it was a pat down of my breasts, it was discrete and the TSA agent detailed aloud to me every move she intended to make.

    I've been on a plane that had a security concern (that turned out to be nothing) but we almost turned around and had to make an emergency landing. It was frightening, and the whole time I was just praying I'd see my husband again. It makes you see everyone suspiciously. I've also been in an airport sitting next to luggage left unattended for an hour--which I did report. I am all for protection measures. However, I totally advocate for people that are against these measures to write their representatives. I will be OK with whatever the majority of Americans decide are the terms of security they can live with. My only problem is that when something terrible DOES happen those same Americans should not come after our regulating agencies for being lax. We can only have realistic expectations for our government: either they have the freedom to invade our privacy in the name of protecting us, or they don't--and we live with the consequences should something happen that those measures could have presented. I think it was Thomas Jefferson that said the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed with blood of patriots (and tyrants, but we're all patriots here.)

    What would be the best way to proceed? I can understand that people feel violated, but we also shouldn't target Americans in profiling because they look a certain way or share certain characteristics with terrorists (I mean, we don't scan everyone that looks like the unibomber, or the Oklahoma City Bombing, or the Columbine Kids--why?) It violates their rights as well. But I certainly can't fully support measures that make so many people feel invaded or violated, regardless of my own experiences. We're all citizens together, after all.

  3. The Thomas Jefferson quote was to indicate that liberties come at a certain expense, and often that expense is bloodshed/life. Thats probably obvious, but a rereading of my comment made me feel like I needed to clarify. I am not suggesting anything bad happen at all--just that sometimes liberties come at a price, and we have to decide whether or not we are prepared for that, as a country and as individuals.

  4. I gotcha. I won't turn you in for trying to overthrow the government ;)


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